Model mindfulness: 3 simple steps to making it work for you
Updated: Jul 25
It is my pleasure to collaborate with the inlpcentre.org to promote practical mindfulness for wellbeing.
What do you mean when you say "be mindful"?
The online dictionary would suggest this is being "conscious or aware", or partaking in meditation in order to enchance that awareness. It's also what my students would say.
Indeed freeing the mind can help reduce stress, improve creativity, and improve compassion in itself, and thereby bring some enhancements to wellbeing - but to achieve real results in performance you need more.
Awareness is not enough.
It's using that awareness to take action that counts.
Step 1: Awareness is of course essential
If you are not aware of a problem, or perhaps a sensation in your body, then you won't be able to respond to it anyway. A young child will try to explore an electric socket with its fingers because it is unaware of the potential danger. Similarly if you don't look left and right before crossing a road, you might get hit by a vehicle...awarness and behaviour of the driver depending too.
One of the first things DBT practitioners teach is awareness in order to address ineffective behaviour such as "shouting out in a library"...did you actually know that the rule was in place?
Awareness is easily enhanced through guided or simple meditation, breathing and yoga which bases its focus in acknowledgement of bodily sensations.
Try this (Awareness of your body):
Breathe in for a count of 4 through the nose, hold for 2, and out through the mouth for a count of 6. Continue to do this and as you do focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body. Note the feeling, and where it is then let it pass. You may wish to write down what you notice after you open your eyes in case there is a pattern following a number of times engaging in this activity.
Try this (Awareness of the world):
It’s not just your eyes that give you information, discover what you can learn about a situation or experience by also thinking about taste, touch, smell, and hearing.
When out walking listen to birdsong
When out walking take a moment to feel the warmth of the sun
When having a drink take a moment to appreciate the sensation as it quenches your thirst
When eating take a moment to savour the taste – and see if you can recognise the multitude of flavours
Try this (Awarness of others/the workplace)
Ask members of your organisation to rate it on a scale of 1 – 10 (where 10 is “very true” and 1 is not “very true”)
I feel cared about at work
I feel safe at work
Work is fun.
Everyone is treated fairly
When I succeed or am good at something it is recognised
I can be myself at work
Add your questions here
A “safe” environment - where support and development structures are clear, where executives operate within a friendly network free from harassment or bullying, where responsibility is preferred over blame, is often the best environment. However, although this may be the aim of the leader, it may not be the reality. Carrying out a “safety audit” – an informal (and anonymous) survey – of your organisation may also give you insights with regards to the level of wellbeing within your team.
Step 2: Knowledge of your options
After you acquire this information, you need to know what you could with it, and this is where most mindfulness practice seems to stop.
If you do not know why you are becoming more aware then the act becomes meaningless...unless you enjoy meditation for its own sake (which is, in that case, absolutely fine!) For me - Being "mindful" needs to come with potential to act.
My book "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" offers a number of exercises to raise awareness in the areas of decision making & problem solving, creativity, relationships as well as wellbeing, but it goes a step further. I use my academic background as a psychologist to provide researched explanations for what you might have recognised. Not only that but I then offer some recommendations (as all academics do) for what you can do about it, should you wish eg: Aware that your team is not treating a new staff member with respect? Perhaps taking a moment to introduce them, their role and how it integrates and a brief reminder of the team goal will make the difference?
BUT - never forget not all recommendations are created equal.
With everyone having a platform for their own behaviours, there are many "influencers" pushing their practices as the "best way". Be aware that sometimes people have subscribed to their methods so personally it is like a personal affront if you do not follow them, but do not let that sway you. If you hear something or see something, it is within the confines of your society, it doesn't hurt anyone and it makes you perform or feel better - then by all means do it!! ... But it doesn't mean it's the only way, it just needs to be the best way for you.
Also remember that when experts at the top of their field make suggestions, it is because they have spent years looking at research data and collating their exerience, and perhaps their recommendation is likely to work more than that of someone who just finds this "thing" works for them...and even if the latter works and there has been no established practice, bear in mind that there may be long tem consequences that are not yet known to that course of action.
However, even the experts contradict, and it's never possible to research the whole world...are eggs good or bad for us at the moment!? So read widely, learn widely, then use your awarness of yourself to engage with what is going to be best for you!
3. DO it!
Again there is little point being aware, and knowing what is available to you through critically evaluating your options if you then do nothing to improve yourself or your situation.
Take action based on your knowledge, and awareness of what suits your body or situational context, and continue to maintain an element of awareness and constant learning as you tweak that performance until you achieve your goal(s)...and so on.
Perhaps it's the ultimate "virtuous cycle".
As a lecturer and cpd accredited trainer in this area I help offer simple, easy-to-apply practices to help knowledge meet awaress (and offer more complex ideas for those more experienced with taking an active approach to life).
(Awareness) Through one of my "quizzes" you notice that you are overly exhaused by saying "yes" all the time, and not only that but what you actually do is now suffering. Goal: You would like to learn to say "no".
(Theory) Being "nice" may be a form of validation for you and therefore you are seeking to please others even at the expense of your wellbeing because of the guilt you feel if you say "no", or because you believe it "makes people like you". (Note there are other explainations too, this reason for "people pleasing" is merely one).
(Action - options). Instead of saying "yes" immediately, say "I'll tell you at 5pm" (This buys you time.) or Instead of saying yes, signpost them to someone else who could also help.
...and mindful soon becomes successful.
For more support with mindfulness, please visit: https://inlpcenter.org/mindfulness-techniques/
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt